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2 March 2010

“Core Vote” Cameron falls into the Hague-Howard trap

The Tories are "progressive" and are certain to win, we were told. Neither is true.

By James Macintyre

In a post-jitters attempt to salvage his position as prime-minister-in-waiting, David Cameron has shored up the party faithful by pushing tax breaks for married couples to the centre of his burgeoning campaign. Meanwhile party activists, bloggers and candidates are demanding a tougher — and, crucially, louder — line on immigration.

Ominously for the Tories, this echoes the “core vote” strategy pursued by Michael Howard and William Hague in the 2005 and 2001 elections, a strategy to which Cameron appears to be returning.

He gives interviews in which he portrays himself as a Tony Blair figure, unwilling to turn back from “modernisation”. But in truth, a pattern has emerged showing that when the going gets tough, Cameron reverts to his — and his party’s comfort zone.

Last year the head of the Demos think tank, Richard Reeves, wrote an article in the Observer headlined: “The Tories will win, so how progressive are they really?” Pretty progressive, he concluded.

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Perhaps it is the reality, that Cameron’s Conservatives are far from “progressive” on the policies which count — on tax and spend, on the family — that helps explain the recent Tory downturn in the polls.